Headed off to the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association annual conference in New Orleans, April 1-4, 2015. Originally, I was presenting as part of two panels, but the second (which was on _Deconstructing Brad Pitt) was canceled. But the first, which I organized and am chairing, will be fantastic (and I get to visit with aca-besties Timothy Welsh and Anastasia Salter):
“Damsels, Bronies, Tennos, and Toons: Gender Matters in Video Games”
Thursday, April 2, 2015 – 11:30am – 1:00pm
Given the recent media attention and continuing backlash against women gamers, journalists, and game studies scholars–from Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian to actor Felicia Day–our panel brings together a range of interventions and perspectives on why gender, sexuality, and feminist critique matter in and for games and gaming culture. As media and games scholar Lisa Nakamura argues, “[M]uch of the pleasure of videogames comes at the expense of women and people of color, both literally and figuratively.” Looking at avatars, gamer behavior, posthuman identities, and queer(ing) mechanics, our panel hopes to challenge the gendered and normative status quo in games and to antidote some of the anti-feminist and anti-academic vitriol and violence in gaming cultures.
Come Get Some: Duke Nukem, Damsels in Distress, and the Default Avatar
School of Visual Arts and Design, University of Central Florida
Male game avatars, from the sexually challenged Leisure Suit Larry to the stripper-rescuing Duke Nukem, share a hypermasculine construction and offer a space to consider male wish-fulfillment through gendered play. The focus on male as actor in these games holds consequences for the perception of feminine in gamer identity. Games are already a highly charged space for gendered discourse, and while the female avatar has often been considered, the ubiquitous white male warrior avatar has gone relatively unremarked thanks to his status as “default.”
Bronies on the Iron Throne: Perceptions of Prosocial Behaviors and Success
Division of Science, Information Arts and Technologies, University of Baltimore
Gaming culture is full of stories in which heroes receive their due reward, often embodied in the form of a woman alongside property, status, and wealth. These narratives are often translated into a perception of action and reward. White knights, or men to the rescue, are a common form of advocate in gamer communities. We will trace how the belief that men should be rewarded for their “good behaviour” is often a point of internal conflict within masculine gamer groups when issues dealing with women or marginalized groups arise.
Posthuman Possibilities: Gender in Warframe
English Department, Loyola New Orleans
In Warframe, a free-to-play, co-op, third-person shooter, players take on the role of a “tenno,” a mercenary trained to wear specialized suits of armor called “warframes.” Though tennos may wear any frame they like, each suit has a clearly defined—and at times regressively represented—gender assignment. For this paper, I read warframe models with and against lore and community discussion boards to chart the matrix of gender organizing play. My goal is to determine whether Warframe opens a space for fluid, posthuman identities and performance between narrowly defined poles of a gender binary.
Queer (Im)Possibility and Straightwashing in Frontierville and World of Warcraft
Edmond Y. Chang
Drew University, Department of English
The blogger of Not Quite Literally posted a provocation titled “World of Warcraft is Inherently Queer” arguing that the virtual space of games like WoW offer an “other” space where “the boundaries of gender [and sexuality] are expanded, eviscerated, and recreated into something entirely new.” This paper hopes to antidote the assumption the virtual is “inherently” queer and to unpack what I call the interactive fallacy. Through a close reading and close playing of Zynga’s Frontierville and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, this presentation interrogates the ways that gender and sexuality in games is both normative and subversive.